The Call of the Gospel
Main Idea: Kingdom access is available to everyone who responds in repentance and faith.
I. A Significant Transition (Mark 1:14) * Luke 16:16; Matthew 11:2–6; Isaiah 35:5–6
II. A Surprising Declaration (Mark 1:15) * Galatians 4:4; Ephesians 2:8–9
III. An Already But Not Yet Experience. * Ephesians 1:20–22; Hebrews 2:8
A study by Lee Ross of Stanford University in California has found that the Jesus of liberal Christians is very different from the one envisaged by conservatives. The researchers asked respondents to imagine what Jesus would have thought about contemporary issues such as taxation, immigration, same-sex marriage and abortion. And according to this study:
Christian Republicans imagined a Jesus who tended to be against wealth redistribution, illegal immigrants, abortion and same-sex marriage. The Jesus of Democrat-voting Christians likewise reflected their focus on social justice, women’s rights, and progressive taxation.
Yet when both groups were questioned further, they usually admitted that their values were not identical to those of Jesus. Conservatives admitted that their compassion for the poor and marginalized did not quite reflect that of their savior. And Liberals generally admitted that Jesus’ views on gay rights and abortion were probably not the same as their own.
What we see in this study is that, even though the Bible clearly states that God created man in his own image, a large majority of professing Christians prefer to create God in their own image… And the in both instances the Devil wins because both groups are usually more passionate about their political agenda that they are the gospel of Jesus Christ. And what does our passage tell us about the gospel this morning?
Main Idea: Kingdom access is available to everyone who responds in repentance and faith. Everyone! This is the good news of the gospel!
The first thing that Mark wants us to see is that Jesus’ ministry marks a significant transition in God’s redemptive plan.
A Significant Transition
From John to Jesus
Mark makes it very clear, John is the messenger, Jesus is the Messiah. John was proclaiming a message of repentance so that people would be prepared for God’s arrival. Jesus is proclaiming a message of repentance because God and his kingdom have finally arrived! John is looking to the future. Jesus is the fulfillment of his message. John is the last in a long line of OT prophets heralding God’s future kingdom.
Luke 16:16 The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.
From Anticipation to Fulfillment
Unlike every other OT prophet, John lived in the overlap of the ages. And even he struggled to understand it!
Matthew 11:2–6 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Jesus is not simply saying look I can do awesome miracles. He is answering John with an allusion to the prophet Isaiah, who prophesied about the kingdom’s arrival.
Isaiah 35:5–6 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; 6then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. For waters break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert;
The kingdom is here! This is good news of the highest order! And this good news is not merely a creative development in, evolution of, or aberration in first-century Jewish thought. The gospel is not a human invention. It’s a revelation from God about his redemptive promises. We see this two ways in the text:
First, Jesus is proclaiming  the “gospel of God” (Mark 1:14); He wants his audience to understand that he is bringing a special revelation to mankind from God about God. God is the source and subject of the message.
Second, the Greek verb (πληρόω) behind the English word “fulfilled” is not merely a chronological reference, as if God turned the page on his calendar. No. The idea behind this Greek word is that of intentional planning, a process, and completion. A plan that God ordained in Christ before the foundation of the world but revealed in time through the prophets that is now being fulfilling in Jesus.
Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Everything in human history has been marching toward this climactic moment. A moment when God would establish his kingdom on earth.
A Surprising Declaration
For the most part, Jesus’ audience was longing for the promised day when God would establish his kingdom on earth through the reign of a Messiah-king. This is the hope that fueled the faithful, like Daniel, who were exiled in Babylon after Jerusalem fell in 586 BC. This is the hope that fueled the faithful, like Ezra and Nehemiah, as the Persian king Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their homeland and rebuild the temple… Fully expecting the Messiah to appear, to re-establish Israel’s fortunes, and to usher in the kingdom of God after they finished their task. But, the Messiah and the kingdom of God never came.
And as the Jews struggled to understand, they began to interpret the Kingdom’s delay through the lens of their past failures to obey God’s law. In their minds, the kingdom’s arrival—while ultimately dependent upon God— was dependent upon Israel’s righteousness and obedience. To put it another way, they believed that the Jewish people needed to reach a certain threshold of blamelessness and obedience before God would establish his earthly kingdom.
But, Jesus is telling us from the very beginning, that the kingdom of God is not the result of religious accomplishments nor is it hindered by human sin. NO. God is establishing his kingdom and its arrival is not dependent upon anything but his sovereign purposes. Even more, the good news of the “gospel of God” is that everyone enters “the kingdom of God” the same way: the simple, narrow path of repentance and faith.
Ephesians 2:8–9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
The gospel message is NOT: “go clean yourself up and if you do a good enough job, God might forgive you.” NO. The gospel message is: “you are dirtier than you could ever imagine and there is no way that you can do enough in one-million life-times to prove yourself to God and earn his favor. But all is not lost. Jesus lived, died, and rose again for your sin and God will forgive you if you repent of you sin and believe in Jesus.
No one is excluded from Jesus’ demand to repent and believe. In his book, What Jesus Demands From the World, John Piper observes: “When Jesus said, ‘I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance’ (Luke 5:32), he did not mean that some persons are so good they do not need repentance. He meant some think they are good enough, while others have already repented and have been set right with God.”
So what is repentance? Repentance is a change of mind AND direction—abandoning every hope of achieving righteousness in our own works and likewise abandoning every fear that we are too dirty and sinful—fully embracing Jesus as the One who is worthy of all our praise and all our obedience.
And what do we see in this? Repentance is not an isolated act, it is not mere sorrow and guilt, and it is not an end in itself. Rather, repentance is the first step of faith. What do I mean by this?
On one hand, the self-righteous, religious rule-keeperneeds to “change their mind” about the effectiveness of their moral pursuits. They needed to embrace the truth that they needed more righteousness than they could ever muster and whole-heartedly cling to—believe—the gospel promise of Jesus.
On the other, the hopeless broken sinnerwho has completely ruined their life—and horribly damaged the lives of others—needs to “change their mind” as well. They already know that they rightly deserved God’s wrath. They need to hear the glorious message that God forgives everyone who abandon their sin and whole-heartedly cling to—believe—the gospel promise of Jesus.
And what does this belieflook like? Martin Luther put it this way:
Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures.
If you have not taken this step of repentance and faith, you have not entered the kingdom of God, your sins are not forgiven, and you are not a Christian even if everyone else in your family is! It’s like the simple SS song I learned before I was 7 years old:
One door and only one, and yet its sides are two.
I’m on the inside, on which side are you?
If you have not received the gospel I pray that you would repent and believe today. Turn away from you sinful self-sufficiency and embrace Jesus as your only hope of forgiveness and as your all-satisfying Savior. (John 3:16)
Now, we could end here this morning, and transition to communion. But, I want to close my message this morning, by highlighting the already but not yet nature of the Kingdom of God.
Ephesians 1:20–22…[God] raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church.
Hebrews 2:8 putting everything in subjection under his feet. Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.
An Already, But Not Yet Experience
The kingdom of God has alreadybeen inaugurated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And for everyone who has received the gospel and entered the kingdom:
It is already, in that, we have beendelivered from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son.
It is already, in that, we areno longer condemned but are counted righteous in Christ.
It is already, in that, we arenew creations in Christ the old has gone and the new has come.
It is already, in that, we areno longer slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness.
It is already, in that, we arereceiving every spiritual blessing in Jesus Christ.
It is already, in that, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ.
It is not yet, in that, we are notsinless kingdom citizens.
It is not yet, in that, we are notenjoying unhindered joy and delight in God himself.
It is not yet, in that, the wicked prosper, addiction destroys, cancer kills, old-age consumes, disability cripples, babies die through miscarriage and others are sentenced to death by the very ones who brought them life.
But, when God finally brings his future “not yet” kingdom reign to earth everything will change forever! Justice will prevail. Death will die. Satan will be punished. God will reign over the entire earth, wiping away every tear of those who have entered his “already kingdom” through repentance and faith. But, whoever who does not belong to this “already kingdom” will be cast out into everlasting punishment because they refused to respond to the good news of the gospel.
This is not a question of American politics. It is the difference between everlasting joy and everlasting punishment. Hear the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of God: you don’t have to wonder, you don’t have to guess, you don’t have to attain a certain threshold of righteousness, and the record of your past can never disqualify you from God’s kingdom.
All this because Jesus Christ lived a the perfect life that we could never live and died the death that we deserve so that, through repentance and faith, we might be forgiven, receiving his perfect righteousness in exchange for a lifetime of sin.
This is the message of the gospel and the grace and glory of the cross that we get to celebrate and commemorate around the Lord’s table this morning.
Johnjoe McFadden, “One Jesus for Liberals, Another for Conservatives,” The Guardian, 4 March 2012, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2012/mar/04/jesus-liberals-conservatives.
“Although κηρύσσω is not used frequently in the OT prophets, it does occur in Isa 61:1 and Joel 2:1, two passages that announce the eschatological reign of God. The use of κηρύσσωin v. 15 suggests that in Jesus’ proclamation of “the good news of God” the reign of God foreseen by the prophets has arrived;” (James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 45).
I am taking “τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ” as both a subjective and objective genitive. (Cf. Walter W. Wessel and Mark L. Strauss, “Mark,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark, Revised Edition., eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 709–10.)
Walter Bauer et al.,A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (University of Chicago Press, 2000).
John Piper, What Jesus Demands From the World(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2006), 42.
Martin Luther, “An Introduction to St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans,”Luther’s German Bible of 1522.